Who uses it: Psychiatrists
What it means: Seeing patterns or connections in otherwise meaningless groups of information. It occurs frequently in schizophrenia.
How you can use it: When someone's stretching too hard to look for meaning.
Apophenia is the opposite, in some sense, of synchronicity, which is Jung's word for meaningful coincidence. In synchronicity, the coincidence is real; in apophenia, it isn't. It's the difference between running into someone on a street corner, just when you want to see them, and happening to be in the same time zone.
It might be synchronicity, but it is more than a coincidence that five of my favorite human beings share today as a birthday: my sisters Peggy and Susan, my brother Ed, my dear friend Doyle Bartlett, and -- most important of all -- the astonishing Christopher Bea, who with his sister Claire is my heart's treasure. Happy birthday, everybody, and may it be the beginning of the best years ever.